The Moon and the Tides: The Dust Palace – September 2, 2022

The Moon and the Tides is a compelling visual and sonic experience of circus theatre set to the surreal ambient folk music of Carawei Gao’s up and coming album The Moon and Tides.

Dust Palace is a circus theatre company and teaching academy in Auckland, and their troupe of professional performers have performed both nationally and abroad. They have been an integral part of Auckland’s Fringe Festival since its inception.

Carawei Gao is multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, producer and a member of all-girl Punk trio Venom Dolls. She is a founding member of LGBQT+ music studios.

We are in the large space of the Dust Palace’s gymnasium. The darkness descends and is doubled as the spectral ambient music slowly emanates out like a dark rolling mist. An electronic foghorn sounds off.

A solitary dancer appears in front of a huge grey concrete backdrop, skinny limbs and creepy stylised gestures reminiscent of the German Expressionism in films like FW Murnau’s original Nosferatu.

The music settles into a reverie as five performers slowly come together on a platform with an unstable nature. Which turns out of be another performer in prone supplication position.

The components of the soul who are readying themselves to bring the subject through the bardo, or the underworld.

The music drops out in a sense as the alchemy of theatre takes hold and we are captivated by the movement of acrobats, gymnasts and their graceful feats of endurance.

Twirling on overhead rings until he is upright and looking like a Djinn floating on air. Looking for a place to hide sings Gao.

A young woman balances on two asymmetric chairs, forming a Y. Or a Why?

The music takes on the ominous tones of a forbidden ceremony and we feel like we have been given the secret password to the large house of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

There is a Buddha in lotus position floating in the air.

A demon figure in hunchback performs taiaha combat gestures with a witch’s broom. The music creeps and emanates.

A young woman bent backwards in half almost, on a high ring. Looking sacrificial before a ritual.

The choir chorus heightens this effect.

One of the most unsettling and intriguing sequences is a woman balancing on a colleague in the plank position, whilst holding a rack of toast in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other. Movement is all static and isometric. A sly smile appears on her face and eventually members of the audience each take a piece of toast.

Equally intriguing is a dance atop a large clawfoot bath. A couple who could be enacting a mating ritual. A dance with the Ba element of soul, the heart, which is love and sex. It is therefore treachery also. The scarlet light bathing the area and the seductive ritual conjures up the climactic scares of the classic horror, Diabolique.

We have had the breakfast and the bath. We emerge into daybreak.

We are back with the singer accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. There is a feeling of redemption and salvation in Gao’s fragile folk tones.

She can only hope for light/ Try to be brave.

A seductive and moving eyes-wide-shut journey which we had the privileged password to. Into the Moon and Tides and the magic of the Dust Palace and Carawei Gao.

Rev Orange Peel

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Leonie Moreland: